At the end of June, Penal Reform International’s (PRI) new Africa Office welcomed Directors or Probation and Community Service from all over the East African region to Kampala for the ExTRA Project End-term Evaluation meeting. The project has focussed on community service as an alternative to imprisonment for petty offences and is now complete after two years of piloting the intervention across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The event was opened by Africa Programme Manager, Doreen N. Kyazze, and Commissioner Med S. Kaggwa, UN Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa, who noted that ‘the problem of overcrowding inside prisons remains a grave and persistent challenge which must be urgently tackled by Governments across the region’.
Delegates from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were joined by representatives from Malawi, Namibia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe and also from UNAFRI (the UN African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders) and the Confederation of European Probation (CEP).
After each of the three project countries presented their provisional findings, participants discussed a wide range of issues relating to the successful implementation of non-custodial sentencing options
- What can be done to increase the number of Community Service Orders (CSOs) given by magistrates? How can compliance be improved? How can perceptions of CSOs be changed among different stakeholder groups?
- What are the challenges to ensuring that community service contributes to the decongesting of prisons and how can these be overcome?
- What are challenges to ensuring that a greater number of offenders have access to placements that positively contribute to the community?
- How can local and national leaders be persuaded of the value of community service and the need to invest in it?
- How can community service contribute to reducing poverty related offending and contribute to the SDGs?
- What other alternative non-custodial sanctions would it be beneficial to develop?